When Michigan courts make decisions in a divorce case, they base those decisions on the facts known at the time of the divorce hearings. However, circumstances may change after the court issues its divorce decree, making the decree outdated, so Michigan law allows courts to modify certain aspects of a divorce decree, including child support, spousal support, child custody and parenting time.
Michigan courts cannot modify property division provisions of a divorce decree, except under very limited conditions. Typically, property division cannot be changed without some showing of misconduct, such as evidence that one spouse concealed assets from the other, misrepresented the status of assets or otherwise acted fraudulently. Divorce decrees based on an agreement between the spouses can be modified if one spouse can show she was pressured to sign the agreement rather than signing of her own free will.
Child Support and Custody
Courts may modify child support or custody arrangements whenever it is in the best interests of the child to do so. However, the parent wishing to modify child support or custody provisions must present evidence of a substantial change in circumstances warranting the change. This must be more than normal life changes. For example, a court could consider it a substantial change when one parent loses his job, receives a large raise or has additional children.
In Michigan, spousal support awarded in a divorce is modifiable. However, if spouses agreed to non-modifiable support, it cannot be changed after the agreement. If a couple’s spousal support arrangement is modifiable, the spouse asking for a modification must be able to prove there has been a significant material change in circumstances. For example, a spouse’s remarriage, job loss or serious injury could cause an income change significant enough to prompt a court to modify a previous spousal support award.
Obtaining a Modification
Spouses can agree to modify portions of their divorce decree and sign a new agreement incorporating the changed terms. However, if one spouse refuses to agree to the other spouse’s proposed modifications, the spouse seeking modification must ask the court to order the change. Spouses can begin this process by filing a motion with the court, typically the court that issued the most recent order, asking for a hearing on the modification. The court will schedule a hearing if the motion raises enough facts to show the court a substantial change has occurred, and the spouse seeking modification must prove these facts at the hearing.